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After a five-point night Nov. 12 at Carolina, he led the NHL in goals (13) and points (27). Stories about “the other Alex” in the District began to appear. Then he missed eight games in November with an upper-body injury. And 10 games in December with a back injury.

All told, Semin missed 20 games last season and 19 the year before. He sat out two earlier this season.

Now, with his best friend listed as “week-to-week” with an injury of his own, the Caps could use the “good” Semin - the one who had nine points in the first four games this year. They need consistency in effort and production.

“It is something we talk about quite a bit,” captain Chris Clark said when asked whether he will talk to Semin about the team needing him every night. “But he is the type of player who can change a game within a shift.

“I think everybody knows how good he is. Now maybe other teams will be focusing on him a little bit more, trying to take him away on the power play or stuff like that. I think it will be a good chance for him to show he can power through other team’s top lines all the time and the focus they put on him.”

Semin becomes a restricted free agent after this season. He is a key figure on this team, and few other clubs possess a “secondary” weapon like him. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau can put him on Ovechkin’s line to form a super-unit or on the second line and force teams to pick.

But will he remain a key figure for years to come? General manager George McPhee faces a difficult task in fitting a long-term contract for Semin under the salary cap - especially if he wants a significant raise from the $5 million he is making this season.

That’s why the absence of Ovechkin offers a chance for Semin to prove he deserves a lucrative extension.

“I think it is a good opportunity for [Semin], and it is for me as well, to show we can play without [Ovechkin],” said Nicklas Backstrom, who also becomes a restricted free agent after this year. “I think the whole season is important, but this could be important to just to show that we’re not just out there with Alex - not that we don’t enjoy playing with him. It is going to be a challenge for us.”